Talton offers alternative view on downtown Phoenix Civic Space

[Source: John Talton, Rogue Columnist] — Former Arizona Republic columnist Jon Talton still thinks and writes about his old hometown, Phoenix.  Upon returning to his current home from a recent visit and book signing tour in Arizona, Jon wrote the following blog post about the new downtown Phoenix Civic Space (in contrast to this other local blogger’s view):

“…Which brings me to the Floating Diaphragm.  That’s what local wags have dubbed the “public art” project that is the signature of the new park on Central Avenue downtown between ASU and the Y.  At night, it’s stunning.  A floating purple dream.  But, as with the Sandra Day O’Connor Federal Courthouse, this is something designed by someone with no knowledge of local conditions.  After the first big monsoon, look for the diaphragm in your neighborhood — Gilbert would be appropriate, with its sex phobia and sex scandals. 

The park — we’ll see.  Phoenix is not good at civic spaces.  It’s unclear if it will have enough shade and grass to be inviting year-round.  And nobody can stop the creeping gravelization of the once-oasis central city.  City Hall sets a terrible example.  The old Willo House has been spiffed up as Hob Nobs.  But it’s surrounded by gravel and a couple of fake palm trees — who wouldn’t want to be around that 140-dgree heat surface on a summer day? And there are more of them — the natives and long-timers agree the falls and springs have shrunk to a week or two, and winter is getting shorter (and it lacks the frosts that once kept the mosquito population in check).  The central city needs lots of shade trees and grass, to offset the heat island effect.  It is a much better water investment than new golf courses or more sprawl.  Nobody’s listening.  Almost: The Park Central Starbucks has made its outdoor space even more lush, shady, and comfy. 

Back to the diaphragm.  It’s definitely better than the “public art” you whiz by at Sky Harbor because it focuses a civic space, the kind of walkable, gathering places great cities have and Phoenix mostly lacks.  Some art at the light-rail stations is quite well done.  But, there’s a deadening sameness.  My friend, the Famous Architect, likes to rib me, “Not everything old is good.”  True enough. But not everything new is good, either.  I’d love to see some classical statues and artwork downtown to, say, commemorate the heroic pioneer farmers, the heroic, displaced indigenous peoples, the heroic Mexican-Americans, the heroic African-Americans from this once very Southern town and the heroic Chinese-Americans.  Just two or three would offer some contrast and variety, and, I suspect, unsophisticated oaf that I am, elevate and inspire more souls who communed with them.  It would also give the lie, in visual form, to the newcomer lie that “there’s no history here.” 

Another wish I won’t get.  [Note: To read the full blog posting, click here.]

Posted on May 8, 2009, in Architecture, Arts and Culture, Diversity and Cultural Inclusion, Downtown Vitality, Entertainment, Governance, Historic Preservation, History, Livability, Neighborhoods, Parks & Open Space, Sustainability, Visioning and Planning and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. “Jon Talton still thinks and writes about his old hometown” — well sort of, but only in a bitter and vindictive manner. I’m still at a loss to understand why DVC or any other Phoenix-based bloggers link to his rants, retweet them, or otherise enable and propagate his incessant, unhelpful Phoenx-bashing. Talton needs to leave Phoenix behind, and Phoenix needs to leave Talton behind. Let’s make this divorce final.

    Regarding the new Downtown Civic Space and the “Patience” art work, I’d say the investment is paying off so far in unexpected ways. The artwork is merely good by day, but stunning at night. At first, I thought that was a liability, but now I think its actually a plus. The past two Friday evenings, there have been well-attended movie screenings in the park. Tonight, there’s going to be live music. The Civic Space is turning into an after-dark magnet, attracting people to an area that used to shut down at 5 PM and encouraging some to stick around and have dinner or a drink nearby. Combine that development with the increasingly likely scenario of later light rail hours on weekends, and we have some noticeable progress toward a lively Downtown outside of typical business hours.

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